Iowa baseball seeks to win third-straight Big Ten series

The Hawkeyes have room to improve, but the chance to move up the standings is there.

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Iowa baseball seeks to win third-straight Big Ten series

Iowa pitcher Cole McDonald throw a pitch during a baseball game between Iowa and Cal-State Northridge at Duane Banks Field on Saturday, March 16, 2019. The Hawkeyes dropped their home opener to the Matadors, 8-5.

Iowa pitcher Cole McDonald throw a pitch during a baseball game between Iowa and Cal-State Northridge at Duane Banks Field on Saturday, March 16, 2019. The Hawkeyes dropped their home opener to the Matadors, 8-5.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa pitcher Cole McDonald throw a pitch during a baseball game between Iowa and Cal-State Northridge at Duane Banks Field on Saturday, March 16, 2019. The Hawkeyes dropped their home opener to the Matadors, 8-5.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa pitcher Cole McDonald throw a pitch during a baseball game between Iowa and Cal-State Northridge at Duane Banks Field on Saturday, March 16, 2019. The Hawkeyes dropped their home opener to the Matadors, 8-5.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

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Heading into its second road series of the Big Ten season, Iowa baseball needs solid production in an area that has been a strength at times this season: pitching.

The Hawkeyes are coming off a 3-1 loss at Bradley on Wednesday in which they used eight different arms. While the performance wasn’t terrible — Iowa only gave up 3 runs on 7 hits — the Hawkeyes’ tendency to allow base runners caused problems.

“For the most part, the pitchers that we ran out there did a really nice job,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said in a release. “They fought and battled. Some guys who needed to get out there and get some confidence did a good job. The plan worked well if we would have just executed both on offense and defense, but we did not.”

Trenton Wallace started on the bump, and the Hawkeyes didn’t allow a hit until Jason Foster — Iowa’s fourth pitcher of the game — entered from the bullpen.

Then, Iowa gave up 3 runs in the next 3.2 innings, conceding 5 hits and 3 walks in the process.

“You have to keep your free bases to a minimum, and we had too many,” Heller said in a release. “Two of their 3 runs were walks. We made some mistakes defensively.”

Luckily for Iowa, Purdue is not a strong offensive team, giving the Hawkeye pitching staff an ample opportunity to bounce back.

The Boilermakers are hitting just .224 as a team, last in the Big Ten. While center fielder Skyler Hunter comes at .343, his team doesn’t follow suit.

Purdue hasn’t displayed much power this season, either, clubbing only 4 home runs on the season.

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Iowa’s weekend rotation of Cole McDonald, Cam Baumann, and Grant Judkins will enter the series trying to give the Hawkeyes their third conference series win in a row.

As it has the last two weekends, it will be important for McDonald to come out strong in the opener.

After a rocky start to the season, McDonald has settled down, allowing 4 runs in his last two starts — a total of 12.1 innings.

Judkins, Iowa’s Sunday starter, has been strong all season, boasting a 1.70 ERA with an opponents’ batting average of .206.

If McDonald and Baumann get off to a fast start, it will make it easier for Judkins to attack the hitters he faces in the series finale.

“It gives me confidence going out there seeing what they’ve done, seeing how they’ve pitched different batters,” Judkins said after Iowa swept Illinois on March 31.

The Hawkeyes will also be presented with the chance to get their bats going again; Purdue’s starting rotation includes Andrew Bohm and Ryan Beard, who are both 0-4 with ERAs above 6.30. Both of those pitchers also have an opponents’ batting average over .300.

The room for improvement is there, but with the Hawkeyes embarking on a road trip against a team one spot behind in the Big Ten standings, Iowa has a chance to gain some ground and climb the conference standings.

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